Implication of altered autonomic control for orthostatic tolerance in SCI

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23 Scopus citations


Neural output from the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) are integrated to appropriately control cardiovascular responses during routine activities of daily living including orthostatic positioning. Sympathetic control of the upper extremity vasculature and the heart arises from the thoracic cord between T1 and T5, whereas splanchnic bed and lower extremity vasculature receive sympathetic neural input from the lower cord between segments T5 and L2. Although the vasculature is not directly innervated by the parasympathetic nervous system, the SA node is innervated by post-ganglionic vagal nerve fibers via cranial nerve X. Segmental differences in sympathetic cardiovascular innervation highlight the effect of lesion level on orthostatic cardiovascular control following spinal cord injury (SCI). Due to impaired sympathetic cardiovascular control, many individuals with SCI, particularly those with lesions above T6, are prone to orthostatic hypotension (OH) and orthostatic intolerance (OI). Symptomatic OH, which may result in OI, is a consequence of episodic reductions in cerebral perfusion pressure and the symptoms may include: dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, headache and syncope. However, many, if not most, individuals with SCI who experience persistent and episodic hypotension and OH do not report symptoms of cerebral hypoperfusion and therefore do not raise clinical concern. This review will discuss the mechanism underlying OH and OI following SCI, and will review our knowledge to date regarding the prevalence, consequences and possible treatment options for these conditions in the SCI population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-58
Number of pages8
JournalAutonomic Neuroscience: Basic and Clinical
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Blood pressure
  • Head-up tilt
  • Heart rate
  • Hypotension
  • Paraplegia
  • Tetraplegia


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